Lost Universe Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, September 12, 2000
Release Date: Tuesday, September 12, 2000



What They Say
Watch out, universe! Kain Blueriver, the cape-obsessed master of the psi-blade, and his lovely associates Millie, a former hot-shot private eye, and Canal, the holographic image of the ship’s computer, are back for another round of insane and probably suicidal assignments. Between combating a rogue planetary security system and guarding a nursing academy, the crew of the Swordbreaker will have its hands full. And while they may be able to summon the pluck to face an entire planet that worships chickens, it remains to be seen if they can withstand Millie’s attempts at culinary perfection!

The Review!
Doing something a bit rare, ADV Films has released the second volume of Lost Universe at the same time as the first volume appears on DVD in an attempt to get the DVD releases to match the VHS releases. This works out good for fans of the show, as they get a double dose and a total of eight episodes in one day. It's been a few weeks since I saw the first volume, so it's not taking so much in at one time for me.

From an audio perspective, the disc is pretty standard and without surprises. There are two audio tracks, English and Japanese stereo, though with both most of the dialogue is through the center channel anyway. Dialogue is clean and undistorted. We didn't detect anything out of place with it. There aren't a ton of directional effects, since there are few really big action sequences.

The video on the other hand has a few problems though it's definitely going to be something where your view may vary. Bear in mind that we were watching this about 5' away from our 40" HDTV. Throughout all four episodes, there's a bit grain here and there in mostly scenes that take place outdoors and in some of the dirtier parts of the worlds. There are two things that really stand out though, and this is much less an authoring issue (to me) than a source material issue.

In the first and fourth episodes, though it shows up here and there in the middle two episodes, the character animation is very jerky in some places. You'll have Canal in a stationary position, not even talking, and the piece of animation just shifts back and forth. This plays havoc with how it looks, since all the thin lines of her hair are jerking back and forth as well, causing more line noise than there normally would be. This shows up on most of the characters in the first episode as well as the entire frame at times where you'd see the entire background shift briefly.

The second thing is partially related to the first; it really looks like parts of this show were outsourced to other animation studios when it was made that weren't quite on the same page as the main animation team. This is really noticeable in the fourth episode and less so in the third. During sections of the fourth episode, you'll see the normally pistachio green hair on Canal suddenly turn into neon green. And every other color in the frame is this way too. These sequences are all isolated and spliced in around other scenes, so it's not like one frame normal next frame bizarre. Combining all these factors together and sometimes you'll get an odd feel watching the show. But again, I really believe these are source material issues.

The cover art used is really nice, with plenty of eye-catching colors and Canal in a big chicken suit. Face it, Canal's a cutie. For some odd reason, Kain is spinning a basketball, which I couldn't recall any reference to in these episodes. The back cover gives a few shots of animation as well as a short summary of the episodes on the disc. It's also worth noting that for this release, ADV has region coded it to region 1 and made mention of it on the packaging. Other discs that we've gotten don't have any region coding on the packaging and are all-region playable. The insert provided has a bigger version of the front cover while the reverse side lists the episodes and chapter stops.

The menus are almost identical to the first volume, though the glitch I experienced with it is not present on this one. When you select the various areas, there's a warp-style effect shifts to the new page, which was pretty slick looking. There's hardly any depth to the menus since it's a pretty barebones release, but everything is accessed fairly quickly and without issue.

Having now seen a full eight episodes of the series, I find it to be a mildly amusing series that might have some potential. The episodes on volume two, which are all episodic for the most part, don't really advance much forward until the third episode, then it's dropped. They primarily bring the three characters closer together in their relationship as a team.

The first episode, Flames Roar, was a pretty routine episode with the group providing security on a factory asteroid whose own security system is just a touch messed up. The focus of the episode is Kain and Millie avoiding various traps set by the person whose orchestrating the events. It's this character that hints at bigger things afoot in the universe of the show.

What could have been a very cute episode, Fall Angles Run (amusingly called Fall Angles Run on the DVD insert), has the group trying to protect against some internal violent acts at a spaceship nursing school. That's right, a ship full of nothing but women in nurses outfits running around. Millie and Canal opt to take the assignment, since its women only, but Canal then finds out that she can't get her program to work outside of one room (otherwise she turns into a huge deformed version of herself). Rather than just send Millie, Kain ends up in drag (white cape!) and ends up on the ship. Once there, we get introduced to two rival classes, the Cherry and the Rose classes, who are in intense competition against each other during their graduating session. The unfortunate side is that most of the nurses aren't all that cute, they're pretty silly and don't really do a heck of a lot besides bluster a bit here and there. There are some amusing moments throughout, especially with what happens to Millie, but it could have been much better.

Knight Checks has some decent bits to it. The assignment is to find a friend of an old man. This episode starts cracking more of the back history of the show, such as the Lost Ship, Canal and a slight bit about Kain's knowledge of it all. Kain and Millie split up from Canal to try and find this person and each run into their own set of troubles along the way. Kain and Millie naturally end up shooting it out with everyone in site while Canal manages to do the most damage to people with her electric shocks. There's some good hints of things in here that I wish were fleshed out a lot more.

The final episode here, Nina Corners, brings one of the more amusing characters into play. Nina's the assistant to Rail of the Universal Guardians. She's taken on the assignment of transporting an important official on a planet and needs to help of Kain and his group since there are so many tribal conflicts on this world. Nina's one of those odd characters whose naturally cute and has something strange going on. The important official won't travel on the ship due to it not having horns (something quite important on this world) so they take a regular flight on a plane that quite looks like a bird. Complete with horns. While enroute, a terrorist group of the "other" holy thing than the horns takes over the plane. What's second most to horns? Chickens.

Yes. Chickens. This leads to some cute sequences, most notably Canal in Chicken outfit almost completely molesting Nina for a key. Yeah, so I found that scene really amusing. Sue me.

There definitely feels like there's more to this show than what's actually being shown. I'm not completely won over by it by any stretch, but there are some solid moments throughout it. It's in the "I hope it gets better" category.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster gold plated component cables and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Lost Universe